What are some of the better educational apps and websites out there for kids?
September 10, 2012 2:48 AM   Subscribe

What are some of the better educational apps and websites out there for kids?

As a father, I'm anxious about the education of my children. I want to impart on them my love for tinkering, experimentation and science in the hopes that even if they don't like the same things I do, that they will learn the importance of methodology, logic and also abstraction.

My wife and I almost never let the kids play with the iPad or use the computer mainly because for one, we find it rude and annoying that almost all the kids we see around us these days are simply incapable of sitting at a table and communicating with each other and also because my wife, who is a psychiatrist, is concerned about the negative impact video games have on the addiction/reward feedback loop in children with attention problems (ours).

I mostly agree with her but she is quite extreme in the last regard. The kids are so eager to use the ipad and the computer that I think I have an opportunity to lure them into using them for educational purposes that they will find fun and we can use to help them learn.

There are thousands of apps and websites out there however, and I have little time to properly vet them. Lots of things purport to be educational but i'm looking for things that have a reputation for their pedagogical approach and applied methodology.

Is there a meta-blog on this question perhaps?

Would be helpful to hear from those of you out there who have done any vetting yourselves already.
posted by postergeist to Education (13 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Poisson Rouge is a decent website for young kids. The BBC has a pretty good reputation and a friend of mine who is an expert in special needs learning consistently points out how good they are [CBBC for younger kids, CBeebies for much younger kids].
posted by MuffinMan at 3:28 AM on September 10, 2012

The Observer recently ran a piece called The 50 best apps for children. We only had one or two of them already, so I let the kids pick 5 more off the list.

There are some duds on the list. I thought Barefoot World Atlas was disappointing given the size of the download - the maps lack any detail. Also Magic Piano only seems to come free with one tune (Twinkle Twinkle).

I gave in and let them download Minecraft, which they both seem to enjoy. My son plays Fifa 11 incessantly. Neither of these are on the list.

They also get a lot out of Comic Creator, which allows you to make comics out of photos and images. They like to storyboard stories using the on-board camera.
posted by sagwalla at 3:50 AM on September 10, 2012

How old are your children?

Have you asked them what they'd like to learn about on-line? A good educational app or site is one that's paid attention to; exciting pedagogical theories count for squat if the child doesn't care to engage with the material offered. My daughter has, for example, had great interest in a bare-bones app that just IDs different types of sharks. It boosted her nascent shark interest and led to a lot of shark books, making it a first-rate educational tool, but obviously that sort of thing isn't going to turn up on any top ten lists.

I too initially hoped there was a dependable blog out there for this; I didn't find a thing, or at least not a thing to my liking. Ask your kids what they want more info on, narrow search criteria with that, accept that there isn't an easy substitute for your own vetting.
posted by kmennie at 5:22 AM on September 10, 2012

DragonBox, a game-based app that teaches algebra, is kind of amazing. I haven't tried Wild Chords yet (learn to play guitar), but it looks like fun.
posted by zanni at 5:27 AM on September 10, 2012

Response by poster: @kmennie: good question. My kids are 10, 6 and 1.5
posted by postergeist at 5:41 AM on September 10, 2012

Oh, oh, oh! They sound like the perfect age for the new Reading Rainbow app. I'm actually kind of jealous.
posted by Madamina at 6:04 AM on September 10, 2012

These are our favorite educational apps (for a 2-year-old & 5-year-old). I don't know about that "pedagogical approach and applied methodology" bit you mentioned, but then again, I think that many games can be educational. (Angry birds teaches quite a bit of math like parabolas & angles, Cut the Rope is problem-solving and cause-and-effect, etc.). Apps4Moms and The iMums have lots of helpful reviews.

123 Color Int'l
Preschool Monkey Lunchbox
Preschool kitty apps
Lola Panda apps (math, puzzles, alphabet)
Agnitus Learning Games for Preschool to Kindergarten
Draw along with Stella and Sam
ABC wildlife
Kitty likes learning
Count 123 HD
iLearn with Boing Apps (letters/phonics/words & numbers)

Cut the Rope (problem solving, physics)
Adding Apples
Bugs and Buttons / Bugs and Bubbles
Bugsky K Math
Stella & Sam - cocoons & caterpillars
Lola's sudoku
Google earth
BrightStart (writing)
TouchWrite (writing)

both kids
anything by Toca Boca (games)
Bamba Pizza/ice cream (games)
Felt Board
my PlayHome
posted by belladonna at 7:21 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smart Apps for Kids also has useful lists like Top 10 Preschool Apps.
posted by belladonna at 7:27 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the computer:


Uptoten (the favorite for my kids being Boowa and Kwala)
posted by Sassyfras at 7:28 AM on September 10, 2012

"The kids are so eager to use the ipad and the computer that I think I have an opportunity to lure them into using them for educational purposes that they will find fun and we can use to help them learn. "

I apologize for this non-answer, but have you considered that you got your "love for tinkering, experimentation and science" without using a tablet or computer? I'm not as hardcore as your wife against tablet use - my son is allowed to play with it - but I don't expect it to be an educational toy. That's what I'm for, at least at the young age he's at. Depending on your kids' age this answer might not be relevant, as once they hit a certain point they will need certain technology skills to keep up. Just food for thought!
posted by bender b rodriguez at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2012

Response by poster: @bender: yes of course. But I also grew up with video games, tv and computers. I taught myself how to use them and now I make my living doing so. I just see an opportunity to let the kids have fun with the ipad but not with useless drivel and nonsense.
posted by postergeist at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2012

My almost-8-year-old loves all the Dan Russell-Pinson apps (Stack the States, Stack the Countries, Presidents v. Aliens) and we've found them to be very educational. The almost-5-year-old loves the Bugs and Buttons app mentioned above, as well as the Teach Me series (Teach Me Kindergarten, etc).
posted by altopower at 5:34 PM on September 10, 2012

For the younger kids, a non-profit website I work on has compiled a list of recommended literacy apps that you may find helpful.
posted by sa3z at 6:49 AM on September 13, 2012

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